“I have anxiety… or do I?”

“I have anxiety… or do I?”

I’m a therapist. I talk a lot about feelings. On this site, I write a lot about feelings, how overwhelming they can be, the consequence of letting them spin out of control, and how to manage them. Since I don’t want feelings to get a bad reputation, I’m going to talk about what incredible guides they can be.

People come to see me for help with their relationships, careers, decision-making, and trauma work. Feelings play an important role in all of these situations. It’s common for people to have trouble deciphering and trusting their feelings. For most of us, when feelings are left unidentified or untrusted they can start to feel like they are totally out of our control. This is when emotion management is really helpful.

And sometimes they’re not out of control. Sometimes they don’t need to be contained and managed. There are times when all we need to do is listen to them because they are telling us something we need to know. This is tricky, though. It can be a tough balance between listening to what our feelings are telling us and feeling overwhelmed and confused by them.

A lot of us struggle with this. We look for ways to soothe feelings we would rather not feel. We look for ways to soothe others’ feelings that they would rather not feel. We reinforce that certain feelings are nothing more than a hurdle to jump. We just want those feelings to go away so that we can feel good again and do what we want to do. It’s understandable.

Remember the example about fire? When we put our hand near a flame, we feel the heat. The closer we move our hand to that flame, the more heat we can feel and the greater the pain we experience. If it didn’t hurt, we wouldn’t be inspired to keep a prudent distance from the flame, and we’d get burned. The pain serves as a useful guide to help us protect ourselves from danger.

We can use this logic for all emotion states, too. If we’re resentful, it might mean we need to self-advocate. If we’re embarrassed, it might mean we need to be more honest with ourselves. If we’re anxious, it might mean we need to put more effort into something. And let’s look at a big one- guilt and shame. Sometimes these emotion states are warning us and sometimes they’re drowning us… and sometimes it’s both.

There are plenty of times when feelings are less about our present experience and more about our past experience. When this happens, the anxiety that we’re feeling might have nothing to do with our level of effort. This is when managing and containing the feeling is important because the guide is a bit off; it’s your brain’s way of trying to predict what is going to happen next based on an old pattern, not the current pattern.

The best way to differentiate between feelings as guides and feelings as overwhelming monsters that need to be managed and contained is to learn about your patterns, past, and present, and start making connections.

If you have any questions about how you can use your feelings as guides, please call or email me. My contact information is located in the “Contact Me” section of this website. I look forward to talking with you!


Love and Be Loved,

“Help- my partner is depressed.”

“Help- my partner is depressed.”

Having depression is painful, really, really painful. It’s a draining and dreadful experience. It zaps its target of joy. Doing even the simplest task becomes a burden. Frankly, everything becomes a burden. It’s almost impossible not to feel sensitive and irritable. Depression causes people to feel tired, unmotivated, and insecure. It’s incredibly isolating.

But people with depression aren’t the only ones suffering. Their loved ones are also impacted by these symptoms. This is especially pronounced if the person suffering from depression is your partner.

Of course, it’s essential to be compassionate and empathic toward your partner. Offering love and support is valuable. And of equal importance is your own self-care. It’s ok for you to have needs and desires. It’s ok for you to want those needs and desires to be met. I’m sure there are plenty of you who can attest to the challenge of navigating this particular conflict in your relationship.

The most common complaints of people whose partners suffer from depression are things like, “S/he doesn’t want to have sex anymore”, “S/he never wants to do anything”, “I can’t depend on him/her to fulfill household responsibilities”, and “I can’t seem to feel as connected to him/her as I used to”.

Depression slows everything down, way down- libido, thought processing speed, motivation, and in some cases, even movements and speech. Your partner isn’t trying to make things difficult; they are exhibiting normal symptoms of depression. Having this knowledge doesn’t make it better, but it’s important to differentiate between your partner and your partner’s symptoms. Your partner is still in there.

While you can’t force your partner to do anything, you can encourage them to get help for the depression, seek therapy, etc. You can also get assistance for yourself. Therapy can help you get the clarity and support you need to navigate this difficult part of the relational road. Both individual and couples’ therapy can fill this need.

In addition to trying therapy, my advice is to continue to do the things that you enjoy. Don’t stop living your life. While you might feel guilty about enjoying yourself while the one you love is suffering, your guilt won’t make them feel better. It won’t be the demonstration of solidarity or love you hoped it would be. This is where resentment can trickle in.

Most relationships work because of shared interests, intimacy, reciprocity, and mutual respect. When depression is present, interest, ability to share intimacy (both sexual and emotional) and reciprocity can take a pretty big hit.

Your needs don’t evaporate or necessarily change because your spouse is struggling. And sometimes this can be the beginning of a lot of resentment- on both ends. You resent your partner for their inability to meet your needs, and they resent you for having needs that they can’t meet right now. It can be helpful for you to address this with them in a gentle and assertive way. Sometimes just speaking to the presence of this shift in the relationship is enough. It isn’t always enough, but it’s an important start. It’s important for you to feel like you have a voice; don’t force yourself to suffer in silence because you afraid of burdening your partner. You have the right to say, “I know you’re depressed and haven’t felt like doing much. This is hard for me, too. I still need help running the household, and I miss feeling close to you.” There’s room enough for everyone’s feelings.

It’s important for you to know that you didn’t cause your partner’s depression. That’s not how this works. Depression is a response to chemical fluctuations and or situational changes in a person’s life. Their recovery is not your responsibility. You can offer support and empathy, but you can’t make them better. You can get help for yourself. You can continue to live your life and find joy.

For more information about depression, symptoms of depression, and your role in the life of a loved one who is experiencing depression, please contact me via email or phone. You can find this information in the “Contact Me” section of my website.

Love and Be Loved,